- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Takeover talks involving Michael Jordan's ownership group and the Milwaukee Bucks have intensified in recent days, raising the possibility that Jordan could be in charge of his own franchise as soon as July, league sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
The growing sentiment around the league is that Jordan is only interested in a front-office return to the NBA if he has full decision-making power with his new club. Sources said that is why Jordan is pursuing the purchase of the Bucks from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) -- with commissioner David Stern serving as an intermediary -- instead of taking Robert Johnson's offer to join the expansion franchise in Charlotte.
Jordan's negotiations with Milwaukee are "very hot," according to one league source. Kohl is openly trying to sell the franchise, reportedly for at least $170 million. Even if talks with the Bucks break down, sources said Jordan is adamant that any team he joins would have to afford him organizational control.
The Bucks responded to ESPN.com's report by declining comment Thursday.
Jordan did not wield total control in Washington, even during his 21 months as the Wizards' president of basketball operations from January 2000 to September 2001. After a two-season unretirement, Jordan hoped to reclaim his presidential post, but Wizards owner Abe Pollin instead dumped Jordan on May 7.
Jordan lives in northern Illinois, about an hour away from Milwaukee.
Johnson is eager to bring Jordan to Charlotte and says a contract could be hammered out "in five minutes." Jordan, however, would never have a stronger say than the owner there. It is believed Jordan is willing to invest at least $50 million of his own money -- a departure from Jordan's previous reliance on the worth of his name and reputation in exchange for an ownership stake -- to secure operational control.
The Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks are the only NBA teams known to be available for purchase at the present, but Texas businessman David McDavid signed a letter of intent April 30 to buy the Hawks, the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena from AOL Time Warner.
"It's a complex deal," Turner spokesman Greg Hughes told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "It's taken a little more time than expected, but we expect the deal to be completed. We are not talking to anyone else and we have no plans to talk to anyone else until we complete this deal (with McDavid)."
Jordan has been linked with the Bucks since late last month. The link only grew stronger during the NBA Finals, when NBA commissioner David Stern volunteered that it's "his strong sense" that Jordan will be back in the league by the start of next season. Asked specifically about the Bucks as the June 6 interview session was ending, Stern said: "I would love to see that happen."
3hMichael C. Wright